Artisan bakers join forces to raise level of exports

Five small bakeries are being helped by Invest Northern Ireland to join forces in a targeted marketing drive designed to develop their export sales. Four bakeries from Northern Ireland and one from Donegal have formed the Company of Irish Bakers and launched a series of home-baked products such as oatcakes, porter cake and spiced fruit cake.

Announcing the new export-focused cluster and the range of attractively branded speciality products, Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Division Director, said: “We’ve been working with the five bakeries since 2004 on a series of support initiatives to boost sales.

“This support has included a market study for the group on the development of artisan foods in GB, with members of the group visiting IFE and benefiting from a study trip to upmarket food outlets in London.  The research identified a fast developing opportunity for homemade artisan breads and cakes in Britain and further afield.

“The group also participated on the Invest NI Design Development Programme, which saw branding and packaging concepts worked up for them by Conran Design and which have now been carried through into the new products.

“We’ve provided an online community website for the cluster which allows them to discuss and share ideas and documents on an ongoing basis,” he added.

The group, which comprises Corn Dolly Bakery, Newry; Ditty’s Home Bakery, Castledawson; Gala Bakery, Ballybofey; Heatherlea, Bangor; and Hunter’s Bakery in Limavady has now formed a limited company and has developed an initial range of five products. These are:

  • Ballybofey Spiced Irish Fruit Cake, made by Seamus Gallagher, Gala Bakery, Donegal

  • Ballyhome Irish Oatmeal Biscuits, made by Paul Getty, Heatherlea, Bangor

  • Carlingford Irish Porter Cake, made by Jim O'Keefe, Corn Dolly Bakery, Newry

  • Roe Valley Irish Fruit Brack,  made by Shaun Hunter, Hunter's Bakery, Limavady

  • Sperrin Valley Irish Smoked Oatcakes, made by Robert Ditty, Ditty's Bakery, Castledawson

Robert Ditty, speaking on behalf of the cluster, said:  “We believe that by coming together in the Company of Irish Bakers we will have the critical mass required to achieve significant export sales. Invest NI has made a significant contribution to this project through its marketing, product development, design support and other practical assistance. This has helped us to develop a stronger market identity that will enhance our appeal to a wider range of retailers particularly the large multiples which look for modern and eye-catching packaging and merchandising as well as quality and innovative products.

“It enables us to share ideas and pool resources. The Company of Irish Bakers maintains the essential artisan nature of our products and our overall approach, while potentially creating a  very strong market identity.

“All our research indicates a growing consumer demand for the flavour, wholesomeness and quality of genuine home-baked products. It’s a challenging and very exciting opportunity for us,” he adds.

Ditty’s recently secured a listing with Waitrose for its traditional Irish oatcakes for sale in stores throughout the UK.